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Lifestyles 2

The International Writers Magazine
: Dreamscapes Flash Fiction

Erica J. Thinesen

"Hey, can you turn down the heat?" Matilde asked, not opening her eyes. She had been dreaming about a red ball floating in the sky. She was running, barefoot through a desert. Troy, the first boy who lied about loving her, told her she needed to follow the ball. It was very important, he said. When she tried to ask why, he disappeared. "Man, that was weird."

"What was?" Courtney asked. She shut the heat off. She turned on the windshield wipers to keep the snow from blocking her view. It was 7:00pm. Led Zepplin’s "Ramble On" ranked number thirty on the classic rock countdown. The back of Courtney’s blue Grand Am was stuffed with duffle bags of clothing and shoes. Courtney didn’t want to leave her computer in the dorm over break. It was in a white box that blocked her rear view.
"I had a dream about Troy. Remember him? God, that was like, three years ago."
"Isn’t he in jail?"
"Yeah. He robbed a Wal-Mart or something. He was telling me to keep following this red ball around. Did I say anything stupid?"
Courtney laughed. "Yeah. You did mumble something about being the governor of the United States. What kind of medication are you on?"
"I just took two Ambien. Man, my head feels fuzzy. Damn doctor told me to try this stuff. I can’t sleep anymore."
"Well, you slept for a while. We’re almost back. Good old V.U. How I’ve missed pink chicken. And fire alarms at three in the morning. I hate Indiana. Remind me again why we decided to stay here?"
"Troy robbed a K-Mart." Matilde’s head was spinning. She wasn’t allowed to take anything for the migraine’s after the Ambien. She tried to focus on the road. But that only made her head hurt worse. The road was straight and flat, but would sometimes curve because road safety engineers wanted to keep drivers from falling asleep at the wheel.

Snow was uncommon in southern Indiana. This year had been the worst in forty years. When snow blew around on the flat plain, it made it very difficult for drivers to stay on the road. Once when Matilde’s dad was driving her mother to work, he drove off the road and into a corn field. No one was injured and the only evidence they had that the car was no longer on the road were dead stalks hitting the windshield.
"Yeah?" The wind was making the snow hard to see through. The Grand Am’s headlights shown on the whiteness and the glare made it harder for Courtney to see the yellow or white lines. "What?"
"I went to see Doctor Evans again. I didn’t want to tell you. You can’t say anything, okay?"
"What did he tell you this time?" Courtney said, half listening. She turned down the radio.
"He thinks I’m Bi -polar."
"Bi -what?"
"Bi -polar."
"What the hell is that?"
"Manic depressive."
"Like mood swings or something? Duh," Courtney said and laughed. "Everyone’s moody, but come on, Mat, manic depressive? I don’t believe that."
"No. It’s more than that."
"That’s just part of your charm." Courtney didn’t know what else to say. She remembered Matilde’s mother pulling her out of school four or five times a month to visit one doctor or another, always insisting Matilde had the chicken pox or chronic fatigue syndrome or hypertension, or strep throat; all sorts of imagined illnesses. In the ninth grade, Matilde was home-schooled because she had started to believe she was really ill all the time. The girls rarely saw each other until college.
But Matilde would constantly accuse Courtney of lying and ruining her other friendships. Courtney planned on telling Matilde on the way back to school that they had grown apart and it would be best if they didn’t socialize with each other anymore. Courtney was tired of trying to shelter Matilde from the gossip and tired of defending herself over things she never said.
Courtney cleared her throat. The flat countryside offered nothing for the snow to cling to so it was blowing around freely. "Are you going to run for Miss V.U.?"
"Yeah. Why?"
"That should keep your mind occupied. I think you just need more to do. Why don’t you try out for the play? They’re doing ‘Pride and Prejudice.’ You should just do it to piss Jessica Baugher off."
"I like Jessica. You’re going to tell people, aren’t you?"
"No. I just don’t believe you’re depressed, that’s all."
"You think I’m lying?"
"No. I think you’re being lied to. Why do you like Jessica? She’s a slut. You knew she slept with Brian, didn’t you?"
"He never told me that!" The back of Matilde’s head was throbbing. She reached for her cigarettes. She opened the window. A cold gust of air hit her head making it throb more. She had only been seeing Brian since break, but he never told her he slept with Jessica. Why didn’t Courtney say anything? Courtney’s always doing this, ruining my relationships. Well, she can go to hell, she thought. She took a deep drag, held it, and let the smoke seep from her mouth slowly.
"Are you angry?" Courtney asked. She realized she shouldn’t have said anything. The ride was going so smoothly. She thought she should wait until they arrived back on campus to end the friendship. They were coming to a curve. Two ancient trees and a farm house stood on the left. The trees appeared out of place in the empty field. One of the trees hung low, almost touching the road. "Someone needs to cut this bad boy down. Hey, can I bum a smoke?"
Matilde leaned over and turned the radio up. The flute player opened "Can’t You See" by the Marshall Tucker Band. "You liar!" Matilde elbowed Courtney’s face and shoved her against the driver’s side window. "I hate you!"
Courtney lost control of the Grand Am. She hit the breaks and skidded into the tree. Her head hit the windshield and her chest crashed into the steering wheel. She was pushed back into the seat. Blood escaped slowly from her scalp, nose, and mouth. The headlights illuminated the tree. The radio was still playing.
"Oh, my God! I’m sorry! I’m so sorry!" Matilde said. She was unharmed but her headache increased. She started to shake.
"Get help. Please." Courtney whispered. "I can’t move my head."
"You can’t tell anyone... about my problem."
"I won’t. Get help."
Matilde sat there. And Listened. "...Gonna take a freight train down at the station, Lord, I don’t care where it goes..."

© Erica J Thinesen June 2004


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